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CANTON, GA. — Jeff Fuqua, president of St. Petersburg, Fla.-based The Sembler Co., has had his eye on Cherokee County, Ga., for a long time. As of the 2000 census, he says, the city was home to 57,634 people with an average income of more than $70,000. With numbers like those, Fuqua knew his 800,000-square-foot Canton Marketplace retail development would thrive. “Cherokee County has become one of the fastest-growing areas in Georgia,” he says.

Fourteen tenants will soon open their doors at the $120 million Canton Marketplace, which is located off Exit 19 on Highway 20 in Canton. Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Books-A-Million, Dick’s Clothing and Sporting Goods, Kirkland’s, Kohl’s, Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse, PetsMart and T.J. Maxx will open throughout March and April. Chick-fil-A, SunTrust Bank and The Olive Garden have also taken up residence on outparcels.

The idea for Canton Marketplace was hatched 6 years ago, an offshoot of the proposed 415-acre Canton Place. When completed, Canton Place will include residential properties, office space and a hospital. Breaking ground on Canton Marketplace was tough work, literally. “Every project we approach has a number of challenges,” he says. “Being at the edge of the mountains, we had a number of topography issues to deal with. The grading plan called for cuts and fills of up to 100 feet. We moved about 2.4 million cubic yards of dirt with 700,000 cubic yards of rock to get the site to grade.”

Even with the topographic difficulties, Fuqua says he knew residents wanted a development of this magnitude; he estimates that the closest competition is 13 miles away. In addition to bringing more proximate shopping, Canton Marketplace will help fuel local commerce. “We forecast that 1,200 permanent positions will be created as a result of Canton Marketplace,” he says. “This will certainly have a positive impact on the local economy.”

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